Maintaining Your F-1 Visa Status



Arrival
Students may enter the U.S. no more than 30 days prior to the “Program Start Date” listed on their I-20 form, and should be prepared to show their I-20 and passport with the F-1 visa upon arrival to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.

Students are expected to report to Tiffin University no later than the “Program Start Date,” and they are “registered” in the SEVIS database as active once the semester begins. It is the responsibility of the student to report each semester to the Primary Designated School Official (PDSO) at TU to ensure that all information on the I-20 is correct.

Education
Receiving the F-1 visa means that a person has indicated his/her intentions to study and pursue an academic program in the U.S. It is expected that this be the student’s primary objective while in the U.S. As such, there are several rules that must be kept in mind:

  • Full-Time
    • Students must enroll full-time during the fall and spring semesters.
      • For undergraduate students (seeking bachelor degrees), full-time is 12 credit hours per semester.
      • For graduate students (seeking master degrees), full-time is 8 credit hours per semester.
    • Exceptions can be granted to the full-time requirement for limited reasons, including:
      • Academic difficulty
      • Medical condition
      • Last semester of enrollment
  • Seated Courses
    • Although Tiffin University offers courses in a variety of formats and at several locations in Ohio, F-1 visa students are expected to enroll in seated courses on the Tiffin campus.
    • Only one online course is permitted towards the full-time requirement each semester.
  • Internships
    • Many of the academic programs at TU require the completion of an internship. Students must approve any internship involving work off-campus with the ISS Office prior to engaging in such work.
      • This includes the Washington Center program with which TU is affiliated.
    • Internships are registered in SEVIS as Curricular Practical Training (CPT).

Work
As mentioned above, F-1 students have been permitted entry to the U.S. to pursue a course of study. The primary objective for such students is NOT to work. Therefore, the United States government takes violations of work authorization very seriously. The basics of working in the U.S. are as follows:

  • Only work on campus (at Tiffin University) is permitted.
  • Students may work only 20 hours per week during the fall and spring semesters.
    • These work hours cannot be averaged (i.e. 10 hours one week and 30 hours the next week).
  • During the summer and official University breaks, students may work up to 40 hours per week on campus.

In some cases, the U.S. government will approve exceptions to allow students to work off-campus. All of these cases require an application to the ISS Office and in most cases, the U.S. government as well. The following are examples of exceptions for off-campus employment:

Program Completion
A student’s I-20 indicates the estimated date of completion for his/her studies. This date can be shortened in the event that a student finishes sooner than expected, and it can also be lengthened in some cases if due to a compelling academic or medical reason.

A student must see the ISS Office BEFORE the “Program End Date” if he/she requires an extension, because extensions cannot occur after the date has passed.

Upon completing a program, the student has a 60 day grace period to legally remain in the U.S. By the end of the grace period, the student must do one of the following:

  1. Depart the U.S.
  2. Apply for a change of status (oftentimes students pursue post-completion OPT)
  3. Begin a new academic program at TU or elsewhere

Important Acronyms and Terms

  • F-1 Visa
    • The F-1 visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. and request permission to enter for academic purposes. Your visa CAN expire while you are in the U.S. If you have an expired visa, be aware that you will have to renew it once you leave the U.S. if you plan to reenter at a later date.
  • Form I-20
    • The form I-20 is a Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Students. It is extremely important that your I-20 form be updated with current information (i.e. if you change your program of study, if you need more or less time to study, etc.). It is also important that you be sure to have your I-20 signed within the last six months each time you travel internationally. Always have your I-20 with you upon leaving and returning to the U.S.  
  • Form I-94
    • The form I-94 is your Arrival/Departure Record issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It is typically attached inside your passport near your visa. This form indicates the date by which you must leave the U.S., and upon leaving the country, you should surrender the I-94 to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer. If your I-94 is lost or destroyed, you must apply for a replacement, and the current fee for a replacement I-94 is $290.
  • Passport
    • Your passport allows you to exit and reenter your home country. In most cases, your passport will need to be valid for at least 6 months from the time you enter the U.S. or you may be denied entry. You can renew your passport while still in the U.S. by visiting your home country’s embassy, though the location of your embassy may be a significant distance from Tiffin, Ohio (in many cases, Chicago, IL or Washington, D.C.).  Refer to the U.S. Department of State’s website for information about your home country’s embassy.
  • SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System)
    • SEVIS is an internet-based system which manages the students in F, M, and J status, and the schools that host them. SEVIS is overseen by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), a division of the Department of Homeland Security.  
  • DHS – Department of Homeland Security
  • TSA – Transportation Security Administration
  • USCBP – United States Customs and Border Protection
  • USCIS – United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

Resources

Questions?
Contact: Rachel Crooks, Director of International Student Services
Phone: (419) 448-3369
Email: CrooksRN@tiffin.edu
Office: 2nd Floor of Franks Hall (see Campus Map)